All the world’s a stage. It’s a phrase people say. You probably heard it from the girl who was in that high school play once. Well, I’ve never understood it in the context of the actual world, and have generally rejected anyone who utters it since I was little. But ladies and gentlemen, I am happy to say that I have finally seen the light… and I saw it in Times Square.
Yes, 42nd street. New Yorkers, this is normally when you would make your exit, nose pointed to the sky (I’m just like you, you see). But I swear this is worth a read. So, close that Chrome tab with all of the photos of that underground thing in the LES that no one knows about. This is more important. This is The Ride.
On the surface, it seems like everything a New Yorker could ever not want at all: a massive tourist bus owned by Madame Tussauds that religiously stays within earshot of midtown. It’s easy, and perhaps even natural, to be skeptical. But this is not your typical bus, nor is it your average tour.
When you walk onto the bus, the largest of its kind allowed by law, you immediately notice a few things. First, the seats are facing sideways toward a massive window, arranged as they would be in a Broadway theater. Second, the thing is wired with more audio, video, and lighting equipment than Terminal 5.
The “tour” travels through midtown under the control of two hilarious, self-deprecating hosts. This is a tour that knows it’s a tour, and isn’t afraid to make fun of the streets it’s driving on (they’ll point out every Duane Reade as if they were lost Mayan temples). The bus, self aware and able to communicate with both the hosts and the passengers, is state of the art. In short, it has all the tools to be totally awesome.
And it is. As you stare out the window, picking up interesting facts here and there (did you know ‘The Big Apple’ is named after an early 20th century Harlem dance?), you’ll notice that people outside are interacting with the bus. No, I’m not talking about the tourists that stand and wave, awestruck by The Ride… there are thousands of those, trust me. I’m talking about performers – dancers, freestyle rappers, comedians, singers, and more who put on a show for you all over the city. They’re mic’ed into the bus so they can converse with the hosts, and you. And they’re very, very talented, the freestyle rapper being our favorite.
That’s not to say, however, that awesome stuff isn’t happening on the bus, too. From game show-style quizzes to Frank Sinatra sing-a-longs to dance offs, The Ride is best enjoyed if you couldn’t care less about what other people think. And why would you? 99% of the people watching you from the street are likely never going to see Manhattan again after the coming Sunday, and the other 1% are busy spray painting children’s names on pixelated Spongebob printouts. So, don’t be afraid to enjoy yourself, as this is truly something you choose to enjoy, or not.
As of last month, the bus has been wrapped with work by Charles Fazzino, the New York-based pop artist who was recently named official artist of the 2012 London Olympics. In addition to the hosts and the bus itself, you’ll get to see the city through Fazzino’s eyes, too. As he tells you which New York landmarks inspired his work, television screens on the bus introduce you to it. Though we would have liked the Fazzino integration to be a bit more robust, it was a welcome addition to the tour.
Before I experienced The Ride, I had originally planned to encourage you to have a drink, or perhaps four, before trying it out yourself. And you’re welcome to do so. With an open mind, however, and the willingness to have a bit of fun, The Ride can be every bit as fun as anything you’ll ever do in the city without ever taking a sip… especially in Times Square, where you’ll pay $12-$16 for one. As a New Yorker, I came out of it richer for the experience. Plus, how often do you get to sing karaoke to the whole of midtown via intercom? You don’t, unless you go for a Ride.
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